PRINCESS: A Soft Skills Companion for PRINCE2
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It’s fast becoming accepted wisdom that it’s people who deliver projects, not processes and technical tools. However, project management methods, tuition and publications still largely ignore the soft skills component of successful project management, particularly absent from Prince2 publications and public training courses, hence the title of this book “Princess – A Soft Skills Companion for Prince2” that explores the human factor that every project manager should master.
And for those contemplating Project Management Institute’s (PMI) credentials, the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam content is to change with effect December 2019 to include people skills that will represent 42% of the marks. However, people skills will not be part of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) that until now has been the main text for the PMP exam preparation. “Princess” will help fill the gap.
CONTENTS (200 A4 pages)
Chapter One: Introduction. Hello readers. It’s common to think of our job as project managers simply in terms of tasks, schedules, budgets, resources, deliverables, risks, outcomes and benefits. Yet, projects are also very much about people, although our project management methodologies pay almost exclusive attention to what we as project managers do rather than who we do it with. However, it’s people who deliver projects, and our key function as project managers is to enable them to do so with professional alacrity. This introductory chapter emphasises the importance of soft skills and includes an exercise to identify the soft skill areas in which we need to improve – our behavioural shortfalls or plain bad habits.
Chapter Two: Leadership and Project Teams. All those interviewed agreed that leadership is a project manager’s most important soft skill. Leadership is as old as civilisation; and perhaps that is why there are so many definitions of leadership. However, I suggest that leadership can be thought of as a collection of various other soft skills, such as a positive attitude, an ability to communicate effectively, and an ability to motivate others. Like leadership, good teamwork also involves a combination of soft skills. In an ideal world we recruit the perfect project team. In reality we take what’s on offer and build the team ourselves.
Chapter Three: Communication. Us project managers spend most of our time communicating and excellent communication skills are vital to enable us to do this effectively with a broad spectrum of people at different levels both within our organisations and externally. The way we deliver and receive feedback, listen to others, write a report or an email, facilitate a meeting, and make a request, are all components of good communication.
Chapter Four: Stakeholder Engagement. Stakeholder engagement helps us understand what the people involved in our project want and how best to engage with them to help achieve project success. There are many reasons why projects may struggle, but a lack of effective stakeholder engagement throughout the life of the project is now widely acknowledged to be one of the main issues.
Chapter Five: Delegation. Delegation is a mechanism for distributing work. It is also a helpful skill for motivating and training teams and individuals to realise their full potential. If we work on our own, there’s only so much we can get done, no matter how hard we work. One of the most common ways of overcoming this limitation is to delegate work to other people. If we do this well, we can more effectively manage the workload and quickly build a strong and successful project team.
Chapter Six: Motivation. Motivated team members is very important for the success of our projects. We project managers must also have a high level of personal motivation, and must know what motivates our project team members. Four fundamental truths about motivation are:
- Motivation is about people’s needs that determine how they behave.
- An individual’s motivations change over time.
- Well-motivated team members are usually more committed and productive.
- We can’t motivate people – they motivate themselves. But we can develop a motivating environment – one in which people have the opportunity to achieve what’s important to themselves.
Chapter Seven: Personal Time Management and Productivity. If as project managers we manage our personal time well we are usually more effective and efficient – we do the right thing and do the thing right. An important aspect of time management is our ability to distinguish between important and urgent tasks. Making best use of our time also involves the use of prime time, removal of time wasters and productivity barriers, and the application of the 80:20 rule or Pareto principle whereby 80 percent of our output typically comes from just 20 percent of our time.
Chapter Eight: Problem Solving and Decision Making. Being able to confidently and competently make timely decisions, including the unpopular ones, is an essential skill for us project managers. Indecisiveness, or equally making snap decisions based on nothing more than a hunch, can spell trouble for our projects. Problem solving does not just require analytical, creative and critical skills, but often relies on strong teamwork too since project problems need not always be solved by us project managers alone. The ability to engage with those who can help us solve problems and make decisions can be of great advantage.
Chapter Nine: Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. Negotiation is a discussion between two or more parties aimed at reaching agreement and is another of those soft skills that we look for in our project managers. To be an adept negotiator is to know how to be persuasive while seeking a solution that benefits all parties. Similarly, conflict resolution depends on strong interpersonal skills and our ability to establish rapport with others. Conflict resolution is the process of identifying and addressing differences that may, if left unresolved, jeopardise our project’s success.
Chapter Ten: Change Management. Managing change is an important project management process that occurs concurrently with the project life cycle. In recent years change has become more frequent and more dynamic, so much so that a whole new branch of management has been developed to address the subject. Projects cause change and we project managers, to be effective, must know how to manage change to ensure our project products are welcomed, properly used and thoroughly embedded in order that they produce their forecasted benefits.
Appendices. One: Project Leadership Case Study. Two: Teambuilding Exercises. Three: Communicating with Different Personality Types. Four: Decision Matrix Exercise. Five: Negotiation Exercise.